By Chad Ingram
Published June 1, 2017
Every working person deserves to not have to worry about covering basic expenses.
The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, with the support of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, recently sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne indicating it opposes a number of changes to the province’s labour laws, including the increase of the province’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
A story posted online last week drew ire from many residents, understandably. Haliburton County is one of the poorest communities per capita in the province and to have a board that consists largely of business owners say it opposes increasing the minimum wage creates poor optics.
That said, the chamber’s position is understandable, at least to a degree.
If I own some kind of ma-and-pa operation in the Highlands, and I have a couple of employees whom I pay $12 or $13 an hour to man the counter, a jump to a minimum wage of $15 per hour is certainly going to impact on my bottom line.
“It would definitely reduce employment,” said the chamber president. “It’s going to cut into the workforce because we don’t have the opportunities of an urban area.”
And that’s certainly true. With a large of portion of the local economy comprised of retail and service positions, jobs that pay minimum wage, or close to it, are common in the community.
Which is exactly why it is for the greater good of the county that the Ontario government announced earlier this week it will increase the minimum wage.
Minimum wage in Ontario is too low. It’s currently $11.40/hour. Picture what a week’s pay cheque would look like after taxes. Now picture your last Hydro One bill.
Fifteen dollars an hour is not an arbitrary figure. It’s the figure labour activists have determined as a “living wage” in Ontario. A living wage means an amount that allows a person to pay for all his or her basic expenses comfortably. It doesn’t mean live comfortably. We’re not talking Friday nights at the yacht club here, we’re talking about being able to afford groceries, hydro, heat and accommodations without going into the red.
Capitalism can be an unfair system, one that benefits those who already have money. The idea that if one works hard he or she will eventually get ahead is not always true. Especially for those in a community where so much of available employment is minimum in wage.
Earlier this week, Wynne announced that Ontario will be raising the minimum wage to $14 an hour in 2018 and $15 in 2019 and it will have a positive effect on this community, and many others.
No adult who works a full-time job, regardless of what that full-time job is, should be on the brink of not being able to afford life’s basic necessities.
A $15 minimum wage will also allow more county residents to have more disposable cash, cash they can put back into the pockets of local businesses.